Vanderbilt travels to Starksville, Mississippi this weekend to face one of the best teams in college football. Mississippi State was once thought to be one of the Commodores' easier matchups for 2014, but the first 12 weeks of the season have proven the Bulldogs' legitimacy. Saturday's matchup may be Vandy's toughest in the budding Derek Mason era.
The #4 team in the country already has wins over LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn this season. Last week's loss to Alabama - their first in 2014 - only means that Dak Prescott and the rest of Dan Mullen's squad will be out to make a statement against the Commodores. Vandy has had a bye week to prepare for the Bulldogs, but they'll also have to deal with the loss of 2013's leading rusher, Jerron Seymour. Seymour was dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules on Wednesday.
We enlisted the help of an expert to get a better idea of what Mississippi State will have in store for the 'Dores this weekend. Justin Sutton is an Editor-in-Chief over at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, SBNation's dedicated Bulldog gazette. I hit him up with some questions, and he was kind enough to pull back the curtain and tell us more about this highly-ranked MSU team.
1. Mississippi State's loss to Alabama seems to eliminate any possibility of the Commodores catching the Bulldogs in a trap game. How do you expect the team to react coming off their first loss of the season?
I honestly expect a Bulldog team that is ready to get back to work. They never seemed to be negatively impacted by the big wins, so I really don't think the loss is going to impact them too much.
2. Dak Prescott struggled against the Tide, but he'll have the opportunity to challenge a Vandy secondary that is loaded with inexperienced underclassmen. Do you think he'll pose more of a threat with his arm or with his legs (four 100+ yard rushing games in '14) on Saturday?
3. Vanderbilt will start redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary at quarterback, but his last game against Florida showed that he doesn't yet have the chops to deliver in the face of a strong blitz package. Who amongst the Bulldog front seven can torment him into bad decisions via pass rushing pressure?
4. To piggyback off that, Florida left Vandy's receivers in single coverage and focused on shutting down the VU run game and pressure McCrary. Do the Bulldogs have the players they need at cornerback and safety to make a similar strategy work?
5. Arkansas and Alabama were both successful in limiting explosive running back Josh Robinson on the ground (31 carries, 101 yards). How did they do that? Did their ability to stop the run factor into their inability to stop Robinson from having an impact in the passing game over that stretch (12 catches, 179 yards)?
6. How many beers would it take you to willingly watch a replay of the last two times these teams played - a 15-3 insta-classic that featured over 200 yards of passing excellence?
7. Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday night's game?